Bell says Wallace apologized on flight home from Las Vegas

Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell shared a flight home from Las Vegas, and Wallace apologized on the trip to his…

Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell shared a flight home from Las Vegas, and Wallace apologized during the trip to teammate Toyota for the incident that crippled Bell’s championship chances.

Bell said Wallace also apologized to the entire Toyota Group at Monday’s competition meeting. Wallace was suspended from a race by NASCAR for a dangerous act of retaliation that inadvertently garnered Bell.

“We actually went home together on Sunday night and he apologized on Sunday, then he addressed our whole group on Monday and the competition meeting,” Bell said on Wednesday. “He just apologized for what happened and the fact that we were removed is an unfortunate circumstance.”

Wallace was suspended for Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for deliberately hitting back at defending NASCAR champion Kyle Larson in Las Vegas. Wallace hooked Larson into the back corner of his car to spin him straight into traffic, where Larson punched Bell and ended Bell’s run.

Bell drives for Joe Gibbs Racing and Wallace drives for 23XI Racing, which is part-owned by JGR driver Denny Hamlin. The two teams have an alliance and Toyota requires its teams to work together.

Bell and Hamlin are the only two Toyota drivers still eligible to qualify for next month’s championship final, and Bell is now seeded last in the eight-driver field.

There are four spots in the Championship Finals and Joey Logano took first place for Team Penske and Ford with his victory Sunday in Las Vegas. But the entire opening race of round three of the NASCAR playoffs was overshadowed by Wallace, who lost his temper when he and Larson battled for position and neither would give an inch of margin.

Larson ended up knocking Wallace into the wall, and Wallace immediately retaliated by chasing Larson down the track and back into traffic. By hitting Bell’s passing car, Larson’s path was stopped before he hit the wall directly.

Wallace then had a scramble match with Larson after the crash and also fended off a NASCAR official. The suspension handed down Tuesday falls under NASCAR’s behavioral policy and technically covers most of Wallace’s actions in Las Vegas.

But Steve O’Donnell, the head of competition and race operations, said the penalties were for Wallace’s dangerous and deliberate retaliation against Larson, not the fracas moments later. O’Donnell said Wallace’s snagging of Larson was “really a dangerous act that we believe was intentional and put other competitors at risk.”

Kevin Harvick, one of the most outspoken drivers on safety issues in recent times, condemned Wallace’s retaliation.

“Intentionally hanging people in the back (in the rear right) should never be acceptable”, Harvick posted on social media. “Protect us from ourselves. I hope this is the beginning of the end of what is happening.

Wallace is the first driver suspended for on-track actions since Matt Kenseth was suspended for two races in 2015 for putting his wrecked car back on the track to deliberately run over Logano at Martinsville.

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